Tuesday, January 5, 2010

People Who Cry "Auction" Or "Kill" When Trying To Dump Horses

This is a MAJOR pet peeve of mine. Play on my emotions just because I love horses and you're going to get two things you surely do not want ~ an earful from me, and quite the verbal (or virtual) beating from a mob of angry equine enthusiasts.

We all know how bad the economy is (I've written about this before) and it's predicted to only get worse. I have been personally offered several dozen free horses, but have only brought home one because I know my limits, even though there have been some really tempting offers recently that I'm still on the fence about.

All of the above, along with the fact that the vast majority of rescues are full up and lacking in donor resources, still in my mind does not give people the right to perpetrate this nefarious ploy upon the public.

I have to wonder, what is it people think when they acquire a horse. They're large. They take up a lot of space. They eat a lot. Didn't it occur to you that upkeep would be expensive?? I mean seriously. Yet every day I am deluged with emails, messages and folks I encounter out and about during my day that seemingly had no idea of the commitment a horse was when they bought it. Hello?! they don't follow you home like a stray dog! You had to see to it someone with a truck and trailer brought the horse to you.

Let me recount a tale from several years ago. One morning, a young gentleman showed up and asked if he could bring a couple of two year old Thoroughbreds over for me to do an evaluation of and give him an honest idea of the cost he'd be looking at to have them trained under saddle. I said sure, knock yourself out. He struck me as a relative novice even though he professed to have grown up on a horse ranch out West here somewhere.

By the next afternoon I hadn't heard from him and assumed he had held off for whatever reason, perhaps the fact these horses were just babies. But later on, while I was out in the arena giving a riding lesson on that cold, blustery early December day up drove a neighbor in his Jeep mentioning that a dark colored horse, still tacked up, frantic and covered in sweat had shown up to his back fence calling to his gelding. He wondered if we might know the horse or who it belonged to. None of us recognized the horse.

This could only mean one thing: Someone had been out riding, and somehow the horse had gotten away, meaning it was very likely there could be an injured rider out alone on the trail somewhere. We sprang into action after my lesson wrapped up, with one party calling animal control about the mysterious horse, another contacting area hospitals and several of us either on foot, on horseback ourselves or in a vehicle heading out to trace back the horse's hoofprints. Those of us out on the search came up empty, thought we learned that it had been a husband and wife out for a trail ride on two young, very green horses. The wife's horse spooked and she came off, becoming injured. When he dismounted to assist his wife who had hit her head and was critically injured, the husband's horse also spooked and took off in a different direction (which explained why only one horse showed up at our neighbor's house and how come animal control located the second horse several miles away).

It turns out the wife was airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center's trauma unit ~ as a very sad aside, we later learned that night the helicopter, Mercy Air 2, crashed on the return flight killing the entire crew on a foggy hillside in the Cajon Pass near Interstate 15.

Fast forward about two and a half weeks later. That same young gentleman who had been interested in training for his Thoroughbreds stopped by again, only this time to drop off a flyer declaring ten or so mostly young, green horses for sale. It had been his wife injured in that above-mentioned accident. Upon recovering, she demanded every horse be sold and they desired to move across country. Now, I cannot blame her for being terrified of getting on a (young, green) horse again after her ordeal, however it was indeed largely their own fault such an accident happened and it seemed to me those horses were likely to suffer in her haste to be rid of them.

Two days after being presented with that sale flyer, I was on my way back from town early in the morning on a donut and coffee run when I noticed a young bay Thoroughbred gelding pacing a neighbor's fence line ~ a neighbor who no longer owned horses. Most notable about the poor horse was a horrific injury to his upper right foreleg, literally torn to the bone with bleeding flesh hanging from his chest nearly to his knee. I raced back to the ranch, told everyone about him and requested assistance in trying to find the owner. I grabbed a halter and my daughter and I quickly headed back over to the horse.

He was frantically pacing and I could not get near him for some time, when another neighbor woman stopped by to find out what was going on. It took some time, but my daughter and I were finally able to catch and halter him to get a better look at his gruesome injury. It turned out that the property owners where the horse was at were away on vacation (just after Christmas, after all) and the horse's owner was still MIA. Someone along the way called animal control about an injured, loose or "stray" horse. What a sweet, sweet boy he was.

Finally after another hour or so, a black Dodge truck drove up amidst the fuss and the young man who owned the horse came forward. You guessed it, same guy.

According to him, there had been a ruckus before dawn with the horses, and they heard a giant crash. He claimed to have gone outside to check and declared everything fine, going back to bed. It wasn't until going back out to feed several hours later in daylight that he noticed the damaged fence and a missing horse.

He didn't have the money for a vet call, so he offered to sign the horse over to me...to this day, I still have that document that "John" hastily wrote up and placed his signature on. However, there were several monkey wrenches in the plan to move the horse and notify my vet ~ first, the neighbor woman who was taking care of the property where the horse was did not want anyone to do anything or even treat the horse in any way until animal control arrived to asses the situation; and second, an animal control officer (with zero equine experience) arrived in the meanwhile, but she had called her supervisor to come take a look, who was nearly two hours away in another part of this vast County. I had contacted a friend who runs a local rescue to come help, I had brought my truck and trailer over and we were prepared to load and transport the horse to the equine hospital. We were barred by AC from administering any medication to alleviate the horse's pain until the supervisor got there, so that poor animal had to endure what must have been terrible pain for hours.

At nearly noon, the AC supervisor finally showed up and just as her subordinate had earlier, she advised me not to take the horse, that it should simply be euthanized and that it was the responsibility of the horse's legal owner to handle and pay for. Because he insisted he had no funds to do so being post Christmas, and they went round and round as my daughter and I tried to soothe the horse as best we could.

That was one of the most frustrating, awful days of my life. In the end, an acquaintance of the owner was called in to shoot this beautiful young gelding, ultimately putting him out of his misery at long last. I still shed tears on occasion when I think of the gallant young bay horse with no name whom my daughter christened Bold Star, who braved hours and hours of dreadful pain because of the stupidity of humans, made worse because those humans spent much of their time bickering as opposed to doing something to actually help the horse.

Later that same day, a local horsetrader showed up to load and haul the rest of the irresponsible couple's horses away, bound for the same low-end auction they came from in the first place with little chance to go to real homes. Nearly all of them went to places we'd rather not imagine. Ignorance, arrogance and the ineptitude of these people caused their horses immeasurable agony.

I hate people sometimes, I really do. RIP, beautiful Bold Star.

End rant.



  1. I hate "just a horse" attitude, but when it is someone's lapdog; OMG. That stuff makes me want to barf...you can kissiepoo you poopy dog. I will kissiepoo my horse. At least he does not lick his rear! I have never had to deal with the kind of crap that poor horse went through. Hope and pray to God I never do.

  2. What an horrific ordeal. You are far calmer than I would have been. I would have got in front of the gun and probably been arrested. This story really touches my heart as my first arabian here in america was abused before she came to me. She still has the long scar on her leg but thankfully her emotional scars completely healed and she is such an adorable girl. Keep up the good fight! the world needs more people like you.

  3. Thank you! Probably a lot of us encounter a whole lot more of those types of people and situations than we'd like to admit. I know I have. From all my years in rescue, I thought I had pretty tough skin. But I wasn't prepared for that. :(


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